On New Year’s Day, in a list of speculative headlines readers might see in 2016, we included a hopeful headline (more like a prayer) that the South Sound would go a third straight year without a combat casualty.
It took less than a week for that wish to wither in a blast of enemy fire in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock of Des Moines died Tuesday in the southern province of Helmand while serving with the Washington National Guard. The 30-year-old leaves a wife and infant son.
McClintock’s death is a double blow to his comrades in arms: Before joining the Guard a year ago, he spent eight years on the active-duty side and did a pair of tours with 1st Special Forces Group out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
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He is the eighth member of the Washington Guard to be killed in the wars in the post-9/11 wars, but the first in Afghanistan. The others all died in Iraq.
The loss of McClintock is a jolting reminder of the perils that persist for U.S. service members a year after official combat operations ended in Afghanistan. His mission entailed advising and assisting Afghan troops, but that doesn’t come with a bulletproof bubble of protection.
The South Sound not only grieves McClintock this week; it mourns for Larry Saunders, a retired Army colonel and founding chief of the Lakewood Police Department. He died Wednesday from an apparent medical problem while jogging at Fort Steilacoom Park.
Saunders, 67, loved the Army and put on its uniform again in 2009 to help train Iraqi police officers.
"I was a soldier for 28 years,” he told the TNT at the time. “It's what I love doing. I just wanted to help because I believed I still could."
If Saunders were still alive, he almost certainly would attend the local memorial service for McClintock.
They were soldiers from different eras, one who died violently and one in peace. Both served their country and community with honor.